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Friday, October 02, 2015

Ind. Courts - 7th Circuit judge hits State of Wisconsin on abortion admitting privileges law"

Yesterday, Oct. 1, the 7th Circuit heard oral argument in Planned Parenthood of Wis. v. Schimel, Wis. AG (15-1736). The panel consisted of Judges Posner, Manion and Hamilton. You may listen to the oral argument here,

Patrick Morley of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports today in a long story that begins:

Chicago — The presiding judge on a federal appeals panel Thursday ripped into Wisconsin officials for a law — partly blocked by court order — that he said was designed to shut down abortion clinics, along the way singling out Gov. Scott Walker.

"Governor Walker, before he withdrew from the presidential race, said he thought abortion should be forbidden even if the mother dies," Judge Richard Posner said during arguments. "Is that kind of official Wisconsin policy?"

"That perhaps is Governor Walker's personal opinion," but it's not the state's policy, responded Assistant Attorney General Brian Keenan.

More from the story:
At issue in Thursday's case is a law that would have required doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they perform the procedure.

Republicans and abortion opponents say the measure was aimed at ensuring doctors are properly credentialed and women get the care they need. Democrats and abortion rights supporters say the law doesn't do anything to benefit women's health and is aimed at limiting access to abortion.

U.S. District Judge William Conley in Madison blocked the law almost immediately after it passed in 2013 and struck it down as unconstitutional this March. Posner made clear he largely agreed with that assessment.

"There is not a rational basis for your statute because it doesn't provide any health benefits for women seeking abortion," Posner told Keenan.

Also on the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel are Judges Daniel Manion and David Hamilton, who also asked skeptical questions of the state. Posner and Manion were appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan; Hamilton was appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama.

The same panel in December 2013 unanimously upheld a temporary block on the law in an earlier stage of litigation.

On Thursday, Hamilton questioned how the state could argue it was acceptable for women to travel to Chicago or Minneapolis if the law resulted in the closure of one of Wisconsin's four abortion clinics. States can't abridge constitutional rights on the assumption people can exercise them somewhere else, he said, citing a Second Amendment case over the right to carry concealed weapons.

Manion noted a significant portion of abortions in Wisconsin are medication abortions, in which the woman takes the final dosage at home. In those cases, complications could occur 100 miles or more away from the hospital where the doctor who gave her the medication has admitting privileges, he said.

But it was Posner who repeatedly needled the state over the law, noting it was approved on a Friday and was to go into effect the following Monday. That didn't give doctors adequate time to get admitting privileges, which can take months even in the best of circumstances.

"That was clearly designed to close down abortion clinics. It had nothing to do with women's health....That was a clear, you know, flouting of Roe vs. Wade," said Posner, referring to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave women the right to seek abortions.

The state contends requiring admitting privileges would improve patient health in the rare instances when complications from abortion occur. But Posner noted when a complication occurs, a woman is sent to an emergency room and treated by a different doctor than the one who performed the abortion. No admitting privileges are needed for the two doctors to consult with each other.

"You don't need admitting privileges to go to the hospital. You just go to the hospital," Posner said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 2, 2015 09:03 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts